Culture, Food, Shopping and Entertainment in Japan’s capital
Tokyo is such huge metropolis it can be quite intimidating to the uninitiated. For the informed tourist Tokyo can bring great satisfaction and cultural insight.
To truly traverse and uncover all Tokyo has to offer would take almost a lifetime. The following suggestions attempt to give visitors to this wonderful metropolis a range of places to start your journey.
The Best Free View of Tokyo
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in Tokyo’s Skyscraper District allows tourists free access to its 45th floor for amazing, 360-degree views of the endless Tokyo City sprawl. There’s a cafe on the same floor along with one of the best souvenir shops in the city.
The Tokyo Fish Market
Seafood is the cornerstone of Japanese food, and the fish market is where it all begins; a madhouse of vehicles, people, fish and noise. Best to get there by at least 7:30 a.m., if not earlier, to watch this massive market come alive, as hoards of fishing boats dock to sell their wares.
Visual delights include bizarre fishy creatures, manic speeding forklifts and a mass of energetic, running, shouting fishmongers, all trying to cater for the daily needs of Tokyo’s millions. The market is closed on Sunday’s and public holidays, but is free to visit when open, making it all the more worthwhile.
Bizarre Fashion in the Harajuku Region
While it’s one of the world’s most renowned retail fashion districts, the Harajuku region is about more than just shopping. The area is a testament to the relentlessness of modern Japanese culture, of bizarre fashion and style obsession.
Visit Takeshita-dori (Street) for cool clothing stores, or Cat Street for fashion with a more bohemian feel. Plus, a visit to the area on a Sunday reveals why Harajuku is famous with tourists; the oddly dressed Japanese teenagers, in their extreme gothic/modern/punk outfits who go to socialise and, while they wouldn’t admit it, love all the tourists attention.
Visit A Karaoke Bar
Dispense with the idea of the Karaoke bar as a seedy place of social clumsiness – in Japan Karaoke is a vital part of cultural entertainment and social relaxation. For an impressive introduction to Japanese Karaoke, visit Shidax Village Club, five minutes walk from the Shibuya Station. This massive club has six floors and includes a restaurant, wine bar and 130 private Karaoke rooms for hire, so there’s no excuse not to try. Room hire at the Shidax Village Club is surprisingly cheap.
Eat Authentic Japanese Sushi
A trip to Japan seems incomplete without at least one visit to a Sushi restaurant. Shake off the stigma it’s ‘just raw fish’, and eat at a kaitenzushi-style restaurant, where plates of Sushi travel past on a conveyer belt, for diners to pick up at their leisure. And of course, there are plenty of Sushi restaurants to be found all over Tokyo.
Visit the Buddhist Temple Senso-ji
The Asakusa Region of Tokyo is home to many traditional Japanese temples, including Senso-ji, Tokyo’s oldest temple, with the formidable ‘Thunder Gate’ at its entrance. This area is dense with traditional temples, so it’s worth spending some time; tourists might even be lucky enough to see a traditional Shinto Festival, many of which occur throughout the year, at temples in the region.
Stay in a Ryokan
Traditional Japanese hotels are called Ryokan and offer tourists a view of authentic Japanese life; with white screens, mattresses rolled out on the floor and meals served in the room on low tables. It’s a wonderfully luxurious experience, with overseas tourists very welcome to stay in these traditional dwellings.
Skyscrapers and Neon in Shinjuku
Everything in the Shinjuku Region of Tokyo is designed to make eyes pop, jaws drop and necks crane. Travellers exit from Shinjuku Station the world’s busiest train station, and enter this uber-urban neon commercial zone, which even surpasses Times Square for bright lights.
Further to the visual light show, the area is known as the Skyscraper District and challenges downtown New York for colossal buildings. There are also many large department stores, restaurants, bars and electronics stores in the Region. For daytime enjoyment, go to Sinjuku Gyoen, the Imperial Garden – but stay for the evening to see Shinjuku at it’s best.
See the Future of Technology at the Sony Building
The multi-storey Sony building, in the Ginza Region of Tokyo, offers five floors where visitors have the chance to play with the latest gizmos and gadgets created by the Sony Corporation.
Soak and Relax in an Onsen
Onsen is the Japanese word for ‘hot bath’, and a visit to these public baths can be a great way to relax after a hard days sightseeing, especially since some Onsen can assist in healing injuries and strains.